Inside Zaha Hadid’s last Georg Jensen collaboration
The late architect Zaha Hadid once said: “Women are always told: ‘You’re not going to make it, it’s too difficult, you can’t do that, don’t enter this competition, you’ll never win it.’ They need confidence in themselves and people around them to help them to get on.”
Hadid was not lacking in confidence. She won myriad awards for her visionary designs and was a pioneer for female architects and creatives around the world. Hadid, who died at 65 of a heart attack in March, left a legacy of extraordinary buildings, including the Wangjing Soho near Beijing, known for its three curved sails which are meant to evoke the image of carp swimming around each other in a pond.
It was this building that inspired what is thought to be one of Hadid’s last completed collaborations, with Danish design house Georg Jensen. The collection of sculptural silver rings and cuff bangles (which will be available from this month) was unveiled at Baselworld in March, just days before Hadid died. At the time Hadid said in a statement to Forbes magazine: “Our starting point was the Danish house’s design links to nature ... There is an inherent integrity within the organic structural logic found in nature and we often look at the coherence of natural systems when we work to create environments. Our challenge was to translate that into something that can be worn; to reinterpret the rich history and tradition of Georg Jensen’s design approach into something new.”
Georg Jensen CEO Eva-Lotta Sjostedt
The merging of one of Denmark’s oldest luxury silversmiths with a female pioneer of modern design is a bold collaboration, and one that new Georg Jensen CEO Eva-Lotta Sjöstedt says perfectly reflects the brand’s aesthetic of today.
“Zaha always thought bigger and tried harder, at the same time not holding back, and she knew who she was,” says Sjöstedt. “And strong people come through and they stand on their feet to push boundaries. Those are the type of people and collaborations we love to work with.”
Hadid’s feminist ideologies reflect Sjöstedt’s personal vision for the company, which the CEO was keen to discuss when we met in Milan during Design Week in April. There, Sjöstedt was hosting the launch of another strong female collaboration: the art deco-inspired cylindrical ribbed stainless steel range designed by Spanish architect and designer Patricia Urquiola.
Sjöstedt is proud to be one of the only female CEOs of an international luxury brand. And while she is also very proud of Georg Jensen’s strong collaborative history with male designers – from the iconic Henning Koppel collections through to last year’s butterfly-inspired pieces by Australia’s award-winning designer Jordan Askill – Sjöstedt also wants her tenure at Georg Jensen to harness female empowerment, both in the design and the corporate structure, and for the customer.
“It would be my dream to empower, and especially for women to be empowered by wearing and using and being a part of the community by sharing the products and being with us,” she says.
Hadid's Georg Jensen sketches
“So even if you don’t know what you stand for, or who you are, you can be inspired by people like Zaha, or others, and I think that is my objective or purpose. I know it’s very ambitious, and I know they are products, but I would love for people to be empowered by them. It’s in the design language at the end of the day: wearing what you want to wear and how you carry it all and how people perceive you when they look at you. When I wear pieces on myself or have pieces in my home it’s a statement, the simplicity and the design language, but I’m also wearing the pieces because they complement me. I carry the pieces, they don’t carry me. I know what I am and what I want to be. And that is what fascinates me about the brand.”
The Sweden-born Sjöstedt is a mother of three, and, like many Nordic women, has a rather modern family: her husband decided to become a stay-at-home father while she scaled the corporate ladder when the family lived in Japan for several years.
I ask Sjöstedt if she wants to translate her progressive approach to family to how she wants to lead Georg Jensen. “I’ve never seen myself as limited: I can do what I want to do and I can still be a great mother,” she says. “There are so many perceptions of how you should be and I would like to break conventions and rules that have been established. As a woman you can be very successful, you can have a lot of make-up, you can be loud, you can be bossy. We shouldn’t limit ourselves to a tight frame.”